Red Panda Escapes Zoo, May Be Roaming Neighborhoods

Sunny hasn't been seen since Monday evening
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 25, 2017 2:03 PM CST
A Red Panda Is on the Lam in Virginia
Sunny, a red panda, appears in her habitat at the Virginia Zoo in October. However, she no longer appears there, as she escaped earlier this week.   (Virginia Zoo via AP)

Someone get Tommy Lee Jones. A manhunt—er, pandahunt—is underway in Norfolk after a 19-month-old red panda named Sunny slipped out of its enclosure and may have escaped from the Virginia Zoo, according to a statement from the zoo. Sunny was last seen Monday evening and was discovered missing by zoo staff Tuesday morning. Staff started by searching the zoo, even recruiting police to use a geothermal camera to scan for the animal, but Sunny may have made it into the wider world. Staff are now searching neighborhoods within a mile of the zoo and are asking residents to pitch in by scanning treetops or any other "climbable structure."

The zoo set up a tip line but has so far mostly received calls from people spotting raccoons, the Virginian-Pilot reports. Red pandas are reddish-brown and about the size of a raccoon. According to USA Today, they're endangered—with fewer than 10,000 left in the world—and mostly active at night. They're also apparently really good at escaping from zoos. In fact, a different red panda escaped from the Virginia Zoo twice within in a month of being introduced there in 2007. It was returned both times. The zoo says it's red panda breeding season, which may have contributed to Sunny's escape. Red pandas can act "abnormal" or "hyperactive" during this time. Despite multiple days on the lam, the zoo is "super hopeful" Sunny will be found soon. (More red panda stories.)

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